Monday found me at a preview tasting for Lincoln Park’s new joint, Hakka Bakka. Thanks to my close friend & fellow foodie, Sapna Dalal of The Vegetarian Tourist, I was able to attend this fabulous event.
Hakka Bakka specializes in Kathi Rolls, which is Indian street-food inspired burrito type specialty, originating from the city of Kolkata. Having grown up in India, I was very familiar with these rolls, which also have been my Indian snack favorite. Needless to say, I was thrilled that Kathi Rolls have finally made their way to Chicago.
We were welcomed with a glass of their refreshing and creamy mango lassi (yogurt drink), and mini cups of masala popcorn to snack on. Both served as a perfect start to what was to follow. Owner Kaushik Guha briefly apprised guests of the description of kathi rolls, and his own vision & concept for the restaurant. In addition to realizing his dream, Kaushik also attended the culinary program at Kendall College to hone his skills. His goal was to provide a healthier version of this dish, using the freshest ingredients. Quoting Kaushik, “Nothing here comes from a jar.” It is refreshing to see this entrepreneur’s dedication to providing patrons with an above par product.
At the restaurant, the Kathi Rolls are prepared fast and meant for eating in or takeout. We impatiently awaited our turn to design our desired kathi roll, trying to resist the amazing aroma. Kaushik had graciously outlined the process for us along with some fun recommendations on how to pair with the right chutneys (sauces).
I picked the Paneer (Indian fresh cheese, that is firm and non-melting) as my preferred protein in ‘Hariyali’ style preparation (the paneer grilled in a herb blend of cilantro and mint). The marinated cheese cubes were then rolled in a pan-seared, unleavened, layered flat bread with egg (optional). I proceeded to choose my sauces and toppings; I tried a little of everything and the highly recommended grilled onions and fresh cilantro which also added a lot of color to my dish. First bite in, created a little flutter in my heart as it took me back to my days growing up in India. I was even happier because the rolls tasted better than I had remembered.
While at it, I also ordered a side of their masala fries, which were hand cut and sprinkled with some tangy dried mango powder. Fries are my weakness and if they are flavored, there is no stopping me! The fries were accompanied with a zesty cilantro mayo, which balanced the zing, perfectfly. And this of course called for another glass of the lassi.
For a while, it got quiet, and I looked around to find everyone intensely devouring their new discovery. What a compliment to the restaurant & the food!
Hakka Bakka means ‘surprise’ or to be ‘in awe.’ As the name suggests, I can assure you that the kathi roll will be a pleasant surprise to your culinary expansion.
I’m secretly advocating for a fish roll on their menu and have put in a good word with Kaushik. Definitely try this restaurant soon!
Neighborhood: Lincoln Park
Address: 1251 W. Fullerton Avenue, Chicago, IL 60614
Phone: (773) 697-3810
Hours: M- Closed T-Sun – 11:00AM – 9:30PM
Price: $2.50- $8.00